December 12, 2014

An American soldier wears a hand lettered “War Is Hell” slogan on his helmet in Vietnam, 1965

AP photojournalist Horst Faas took this iconic photo on June 18, 1965, during the Vietnam War with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Battalion on defense duty at Phouc Vinh airstrip in South Vietnam. The headband message “War is Hell” typified an acerbic attitude of many young American soldiers who were likely drafted and sent to the remote southeastern Asia jungles to engage in deadly and terrifying combat. A lot of the soldiers wrote graffiti on their helmets with inscriptions of their attitudes about where they were and why they were there.

During the Vietnam War on June 18, 1965 173rd Airborne Brigade Battalion member Larry Wayne Chaffin smiles for the camera.  (AP Photo)

The identity of the soldier was unknown for many decades until recently when he was identified as Larry Wayne Chaffin from St. Louis. He served with that brigade in Vietnam for exactly one year beginning in May 1965 and when the photo was taken he was 19. Chaffin had many problems adjusting to civilian life when he returned from Vietnam. He died at the age of 39 from complications that arose from diabetes, an ailment he might have contracted from exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam. He died in 1985.

The “War is Hell” quote originates from William Tecumseh Sherman’ address to the graduating class of the Michigan Military Academy (19 June 1879); but slightly varying accounts of this speech have been published. Sherman was a Union Army general during the American Civil War. He succeeded General U.S. Grant as commander of the Western Theater of that war in the spring of 1864. The full quote:
“I’ve been where you are now and I know just how you feel. It’s entirely natural that there should beat in the breast of every one of you a hope and desire that some day you can use the skill you have acquired here. Suppress it! You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, War is Hell!“.
(via Rare Historical Photos)




FOLLOW US
FacebookInstagramTumblrPinterestFlipboardRSS

Browse by Decades

Popular Posts